Crystal McLeod, of White Lake, Ont., was pretty nervous about how her daughter, Ava, would handle the move to JK from being home full-time. “I worried that she wouldn’t adapt socially, that she’d be homesick, and wondered if she'd be independent. I was afraid she would hate it and want to stay home,” she says. “But the first day was harder for me than it was for her. I was emotional, but she was a superstar, waving happily as she got on the bus.”
Many parents can relate, but Cheryl King, a kindergarten teacher in Brampton, Ont., suggests you don’t share your stresses and fears with your kids. “Yes, there are usually tears from the parents, but not letting your child see this makes the transition easier,” she says. “They think their parents sit at home and cry until they return — my students have told me so!”
As for the kids? Teachers agree that separation is their biggest worry. “They don’t like being away from their parents, especially if they haven’t been to preschool or daycare,” says Elia Kontostergios. “My best advice is to leave immediately. The longer you stick around, the longer your child will cry. If you haven’t heard from the teacher, it means your child is enjoying her day.”
Parents can take heart — the sadness is fleeting. “Most tears only last until the child can no longer see her parent. The ones that last throughout the day are often gone in a week or two,”King says.
A great tip: Put a family picture or special item in their backpack. “Remind your tot to look at it if she feels sad,” says Kontostergios.
A version of this article appeared in our August 2013 issue with the headline, "Kindergarten confidential: Dealing with jitters," p.66.